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Thursday, February 12, 1998 Published at 20:49 GMT

Sport: Football

Vialli, from super-sub to player manager
image: [ Gianluca Vialli: new responsibilities as player manager of Chelsea ]
Gianluca Vialli: new responsibilities as player manager of Chelsea

A year ago, Gianluca Vialli cut a sorry figure left on the bench, rebelliously smoking cigarettes, as Ruud Gullit took Chelsea to Wembley and beyond.

The Italian was furious at his lack of opportunity, but there were clear signs earlier this season that he had taken a more responsible attitude.

Out went the fags and veiled criticisms of Gullit, in came a determination to do all he could to win a place in the starting line-up, and to accept without complaint when he was dropped.

It must have impressed the powers-that-be at Chelsea, but even so their choice of him as a replacement for Gullit is a huge surprise.


He is not your obvious manager; for a start he is a lover of practical jokes.

Hard-man Graeme Souness, a team-mate at Sampdoria, was one to suffer. Vialli sought revenge for being pushed into a muddy lake by the Scot by sprinkling pepper into Souness' underpants, squirting shaving foam in his shoes and chopping the legs off his trousers.

Born leader

Azeglio Vicini, head of the Italian coaches association (AIA) and former manager, said Vialli would make a first-rate coach at Chelsea.

"Vialli is a born leader, he can do well in this dual role," Vicini said. "Or to put it another way; in England, where tactics have not evolved as much as they have here, someone with his personality can do well.

"Here, the player-manager role is outlawed. It's only allowed in the amateur leagues. And it's a delicate role. A lot will depend how much he will play himself."

Vialli fact file

  • 1964: Born Cremona, Italy, July 9. The son of a millionaire, he is brought up in a castle.
  • 1980: Signs for local club Cremonese, but his first full season is unspectacular with just five goals in 31 appearances.
  • 1984: After scoring 10 goals for Cremonese, is signed by Sampdoria. Makes it into double figures for six out of eight seasons at the Genoa-based side.
  • 1985: Wins Italian Cup with Sampdoria. Repeats feat in 1988 and 1989.
  • 1986: Included in Italy squad for Mexico World Cup finals.
  • 1990: Sampdoria win European Cup Winners' Cup. Vialli is included in Italy's World Cup squad.
  • 1991: Sampdoria win Italian championship. Vialli is Serie A's top scorer with 16 goals.
  • 1992: Juventus pay a world record £12.5million to bring him to Turin.
  • 1993: Wins UEFA Cup with Juventus, beating Borussia Dortmund in final.
  • 1994: Left out of Italy's 1994 World Cup squad by Arrigo Sacchi.
  • 1995: Juventus win League and Cup double with 16 goals from Vialli. Scores spectacular goal in second leg of UEFA Cup final against Parma, but Juventus lose.
  • 1996: Skippers Juventus to victory in the 1996 European Cup final in his last game for the club. Joins Chelsea on a free transfer in the summer for £1million a year.
  • 1997: Ends season with nine League goals. Wins FA Cup winners' medal after coming on as a late substitute in final. In first game of new season scores four goals against Barnsley.
  • 1998: Installed as Chelsea's new player manager following Ruud Gullit's shock departure. Remains Chelsea's top scorer for 1997-98 season despite limited appearances.

    International record: 59 Italy caps, 16 goals; 20 Italy Under-21 caps, 11 goals; Italy youth international.

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